Ganz’s coaching has YSU tight ends making gains


Tight ends coach

is ex-Nebraska QB

By STEVE WILAJ

swilaj@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

During Monday’s practice inside the WATTS, tight end Jacob Wood hauled in a 10-yard pass from Trent Hosick.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior then trotted back to the tight end group on the sidelines (still ball-in-hand) — and before receiving instruction from his new position coach Joe Ganz — tossed the ball across the field to a Penguins student-assistant.

“That’s a terrible throw,” Ganz told Wood (jokingly, of course). “Great job on the route, but that’s an awful throw.”

Excuse Ganz for drawing back to his roots.

Just beginning his first year at YSU, Ganz set 23 school records as Nebraska’s starting quarterback in 2007 and 2008. He then spent four years in various roles on Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers staff before officially reuniting with his former coach earlier this month.

“Had things worked out a certain way, I probably would have hired him last year,” said Pelini, whose first year as Nebraska’s head coach (2008) was Ganz’s senior season. “But I think he’s a really good football coach and a really good addition to our staff — great guy, really intelligent football mind. He’ll represent this program well.”

Ganz — who was considered for, but missed out on, becoming the running backs coach a year ago — joined YSU in early March after 2015 tight ends coach Kyle Brey left for Ohio State’s staff. He received a call from Pelini, ditched his job at a broadcast station in Omaha, Neb., and relocated to Youngstown.

“We stayed in contact throughout [2015] and [Pelini] said to just stay patient and it might happen,” said Ganz, who left Nebraska’s staff when Pelini was fired in 2014. “It did. So it’s been an interesting journey, but it was a lot like when I was a player. Didn’t get a whole lot of chances when I was young, and then finally junior and senior year I got a chance to play.”

Among other marks, Ganz holds these Cornhuskers season records: passing yards, yards per game, completions and total offense. He set them all set in 2008, when he was named the team MVP.

Now, though, Ganz is teaching a position he used to throw to — and using his former QB position to do so.

“The thing I’m trying to get through to the tight ends,” he said, “is teaching them from a quarterback’s perspective — how to get open, where the quarterback wants you to be, a certain timing of routes. Just different things so they start understanding the game as a whole and aren’t just memorizing routes on a piece of paper.

“I think it’s really helped. We’ve caught a lot of balls in the first seven practices and guys are really embracing it. That’s a credit to them.”

Said Wood: “The thing I like the most about coach Ganz is that he’s brought a lot of knowledge in the pass game, which we hadn’t necessarily been taught in the past and hadn’t harped on as much. So we’re progressing well.”

Wood is YSU’S top tight end (he started every game in 2015) and has been impressive all spring. Meanwhile, juniors Shane Kuhn (used in short-yardage run situations in 2015), Kevin Rader and Anthony Parente are all in the mix.

“[Wood] can do it all and That’s what I’m looking for,” Ganz said. “At tight end, you have to be the jack of all trades. He’s physical in the run game, runs good routes, has good speed and he understands the game. ... But I’ve been blessed to be able to come in and have a really great entire group.”

Not that Ganz doesn’t pay attention to his natural position, though — which just so happens to be a three-man quarterback battle between Hunter Wells, Ricky Davis and Hosick.

“As a former quarterback, you kind of just flock to quarterbacks in general,” he said. “Just talking to them, in passing, about my experiences in playing — what helped me, what hurt me, what I did wrong and learned from. So they know that I played and they can always come to me whenever they want.

“I think it’s going to be a great battle. Those three guys all bring a little something different and now it’s going be about who’s going step up and take it.”

PRACTICE TAKEAWAYS

With the wrap of Thursday’s practice at Stambaugh Stadium, the Penguins are seven sessions through their 15-practice schedule. They’ll be off until April 2.

Will Mahone has the most serious injury, as he has been out and wearing a walking boot since Friday with a foot ailment. Pelini said that the former Austintown Fitch graduate is scheduled to see a foot specialist on Monday and will likely miss the rest of the spring. Meanwhile, junior receiver I’tavious Harvin, who has missed the past week, is expected to return after the break, as is Radar (missed Thursday, rolled ankle) and Kuhn (out since Monday with a strained hamstring).

Play of the day: Hosick connected with Darius Shackleford on a lofting 30-yard pass down the right sideline and the redshirt-freshman receiver took it all the way for a touchdown.

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